Pakistan to be placed on terror-financing watch list

ISLAMABAD • At the urging of the Donald Trump administration, an international task force has decided to place Pakistan on a terrorism-financing watch list, a decision that has stunned and alarmed Pakistani officials and one that could deliver a major blow to the nation's economy.

The Paris-based Financial Action Task Force, which conducts much of its business in secret, concluded its meetings on Friday with no public statement on Pakistan's status.

But Dr Miftah Ismail, a financial adviser to Pakistan's Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, said that he expected Pakistan to be placed on the list in June, after the country and the task force agreed on an action plan.

Pakistan was on the list from 2012 to 2015. It has counted on allies like China, Saudi Arabia and Turkey to block the US-led effort to put the country back on the grey list of nations that are not doing enough to counter terrorism financing.

Pakistan fears that the move will widen the country's international isolation, damage its already emaciated economy, hurt its banking sector and hinder its access to international markets as it prepares to repay about US$3 billion (S$4 billion) in debt this summer.

When China - along with the Gulf Cooperation Council - backed out of the effort to block the move, Pakistani officials appeared resigned.

A spokesman for Pakistan's Foreign Ministry, Mr Mohammad Faisal, said during a news briefing on Friday that the country would await an official statement from the task force.

Ms Alexandra Wijmenga-Daniel, a spokesman for the task force, would not comment on the news reports.

The United States led the effort to nominate Pakistan as part of a broader strategy to pressure the country to cut alleged links to Islamist militants causing chaos in Afghanistan.

The US, India and other Western countries have repeatedly called for Pakistan to take stronger action against a charity that acts as a front for Lashkar-e-Taiba, a militant group accused of carrying out the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai and which was put on a United Nations list of global terrorist groups in 2005.

But Pakistan said that most of the concerns had been addressed since 2015.

NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 25, 2018, with the headline 'Pakistan to be placed on terror-financing watch list'. Print Edition | Subscribe